There are over 3,000 active assessors in the RICS assessor community. The role is hugely fulfilling, and one I've undertaken since 2017.
As an associate in Bidwells' building surveying team, I dedicate my time and insight to helping other surveyors across the country. Having assessed candidates both prior to and during the COVID-19 pandemic, my breadth of experience helps me to answer any questions qualified surveyors may have about becoming an RICS assessor in the UK, in addition to providing an overview of the process from a candidate's perspective.
This Q&A should answer any queries you may have about becoming an RICS assessor and what the role entails.
Q: What does being an assessor involve?
A: To be an assessor, you need to be three years post-qualified MRICS. You also need to have completed the RICS training. Having lots of experience is key as it helps you to accurately assess candidates and their presentations.
In the UK, there are two sessions each year for the Assessment of Professional Competence (APC). The first begins in April and continues to June and the second spans October through to early December. The APC is the culmination of a candidate's hard work over the previous 24 months (or more).
Many current RICS members will have sat the APC in its current or similar format to gain member status and will therefore be familiar with the process. Candidates should be similarly well informed, but this doesn't always seem to be the case. A well-prepared candidate will have familiarised themselves with the APC process, so that they understand what is required of them to demonstrate they have met the required competency levels. This is important to their chances of success.
There are two distinct roles for APC assessors. The chair is there to oversee the panel, run proceedings and cover the standards and ethics part of the interview. Two assessors conduct the main body of the interview, question the candidate on their declared competences and decide whether they are awarded a pass or are referred, meaning they have to resit the assessment. In the event that they do not agree, the chair will cast the deciding vote.
RICS will form interview panels on the basis that four candidates are assessed each day. It is requested that assessors make themselves available to sit on a minimum of one panel per session each year, although some will offer their services for more.
Typically, you will receive the candidate's submission up to four weeks prior to the date of final assessment, although this can vary. Each assessor is expected to be committed, and dedicate the time required to carefully review these documents and compile relevant bespoke questions before the interview.
The assessors must base their questioning on the candidate's summary of experience, which requires a detailed analysis to draw out questions which explore whether they have met their declared competencies. A good submission is therefore very valuable to assessors, as well as the candidates, of course.
There are many different facets and technical competencies within surveying, each candidate brings a unique set of experiences, so preparing for each assessment takes time. If the candidate declares or writes about something you are less familiar with, this will often require you as the assessor to undertake your own research to ensure that you can appropriately ask questions at the correct level. While this is good Continued Professional Development (CPD), it can also add to the preparation time to ensure that you are able to assess the candidate for both their benefit and also upholding the standards of the process.
Q: What is involved in the interview process?
A: When it comes to the interviews themselves, the final assessment is a one-hour interview in front of a panel, which is made up of two assessors and a chair. The candidate is required to give a ten-minute presentation on their pre-submitted case study project. Their presentation provides updates and engaging information on their client care and communication skills as well as other competencies specific to the project covered in the case study.
Following the presentation, the interview is split into ten minutes of questions on the presentation and wider case study by the two assessors, before moving onto 30 minutes of questions on the main submission where the candidate has submitted the experience (at levels 1–3) to demonstrate their competence in their chosen pathway.
The levels are as follows:
Level 1: Knowledge and understanding
Level 2: Application of knowledge
Level 3: Reasoned advice, depth and synthesis of technical knowledge and its implementation.
Candidates need to meet the highest level that each competency requires them to declare. Assessors need to be aware of the candidate’s competencies and ensure that they are asking questions at the highest level declared. Whilst there is not a lot of time to dwell on questions, where possible assessors need to be able to rephrase the question at a lower level (perhaps dropping from level three to two) to provide an opportunity for the candidates to understand what is being asked and extract the right answer.
Finally, the interview concludes with ten minutes of questions from the chair on RICS standards, CPD and ethics. There is a lot of importance placed on the chair's questions around ethics and how the candidate answers these. The RICS is a professional body, there to uphold standards and it is expected that all candidates who gain membership can demonstrate their understanding of what is expected of them as a member.
It is important to be friendly, engaging and interested, as positive encouragement helps the candidates to relax and demonstrate their knowledge effectively.
Q: You have been an assessor before the pandemic and afterwards – how has the process changed?
A: When COVID-19 struck, RICS switched to online-only interviews, replacing the in-person interviews held at various assessment centres across the UK. While this was a new experience for the UK, a similar arrangement was already in place for some overseas membership and accelerated a change that would have been made eventually. The format of the actual written submissions and interviews (as set out above) have not changed.
The new process saw many benefits and disadvantages. For example, as the assessment sessions were no longer held in person, travel time and expenses were greatly reduced. Often there were additional costs such as overnight stays. Although it was a positive change to reduce both candidate and assessor expenditure, the increase in online assessments also reduced the opportunity to network. Before COVID-19, the assessment day would involve getting to know the rest of the panel. Expanding your contacts and building rapports with other surveyors is helpful and something I have missed about in-person assessments.
Overall, I believe that online assessment suits the candidates better. Logging in to Microsoft Teams five minutes before an interview in the comfort of their home or office removes any stress or cost implications around travel and staying away from home.
Q: Why should other building surveyors sign up to be an assessor?
A: Most RICS members have had support during their career. Being an assessor is a great way of giving back and supporting others in the profession, as well as staying up to date and gaining valuable CPD.
Being an assessor not only helps the wider profession, but also helps the junior surveyors in your place of work.
If you work for a firm where multiple colleagues are going through their assessment each year, then having an assessor to lean on for advice is often a real attraction for apprentices and graduates.
Being chartered with RICS represents a standard of excellence in our chosen fields across the built environment and other pathways.
I recall my first assessment where I had to consider whether the candidate had met the level required for the first time. There isn't a simple tick box to assess this, you need to holistically assess each candidate based on the quality of their presentation and how they handle the Q&A segment on the assessment – all within the space of one hour.
Being an assessor requires dedication and commitment, particularly running up to the date of the assessment, and afterwards if the assessors need to write their referral report. The whole panel assist in writing the referral report to ensure that the candidate is provided with useful, practical advice to help them improve and pass on their next attempt.
There is generally a shortage of assessors, but there are lots of experienced and knowledgeable surveyors who have the skills needed to fill the gap and give back to the profession. I personally find it so rewarding to see other surveyors succeed and develop beyond the assessment.